Finding ways to collect saves
LOS ANGELES — What a relief for the Marlins. A.J. Ramos chalked up big league career save No. 1 on Wednesday, breezing through a perfect ninth inning in Miami’s 5-4 comeback victory over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.
Not only was Ramos undaunted by the task of his first save chance, the right-hander showed signs of dominance, striking out two before ending it on Andre Ethier’s routine fly ball to right. The moment was extra special for Ramos because his parents, who live in Texas, were at the ballpark.
Now, one save doesn’t make a closer. But the Marlins are in dire need to fix their late-inning struggles. All things considered, a 4-6 road trip, wasn’t that bad, especially against that level of opposition — the Nationals, Giants (four games) and Dodgers.
Before leaving Miami, you’d pretty much would have taken 5-5. And 4-6 didn’t knock them too far off course. But what could have been was one of the best road trips in years. The sticky point is the three blown saves. If all three were converted, then you’re looking at a 7-3 swing.
So who will close? The Marlins can say they will go by matchups, but based on what we saw in L.A., Ramos is deserving of getting a look. All three batters he retired batted lefty.
The struggles of the ‘pen are well known. Miami weighed all options, and had discussions with free agent Rafael Soriano. But after seeing Soriano throw, the team felt the veteran isn’t an upgrade over what they already have. Also, because Soriano has remained on the market, and didn’t have the benefit of Spring Training, it would take him at least a couple of weeks to be in position to help.
The Marlins are scrambling to get over .500 as quickly as possible. They’re 16-19 heading into Friday’s series opener against the Braves at Marlins Park.
It’s appearing more likely that Miami’s best chances of solidifying its ‘pen is working with the options already in the organization.
Jarred Cosart’s tight hamstring could also play into the equation. Cosart will be evaluated Thursday, and if he has to miss a start or go on the disabled list, chances are the Marlins will reinstate Henderson Alvarez to pitch this weekend.
The team has been weighing whether to give Alvarez one more rehab assignment start, at Double-A Jacksonville, or activate him for Sunday. Cosart’s injury may make that decision for the club.
From the sounds of things, the team wants to fix the ‘pen as quickly as possible. David Phelps opened the season in the bullpen, but stepped into the rotation after Alvarez went on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Phelps could go back to the ‘pen, offering late-innings depth. Or, Tom Koehler could swing from rotation to ‘pen. There is a feeling Koehler could handle any role — start, long relief, setup or even close.
If Miami wants both Koehler and Phelps in the ‘pen, lefty prospect Justin Nicolino is impressing at Triple-A. He could come up to join the rotation.
It is doubtful Koehler, if moved out of rotation, would immediately close. But he is capable of being the eighth inning option.
And let’s not completely rule out Steve Cishek. He’s working now to get right. And in a month or so, he may fix his mechanics, and regain that difficult-to-hit downward movement. If that happens, and Ramos runs with the closer job, Miami could be in a good spot. Then, they’d have two closer options.
History has shown many playoff teams have more than one candidate who can close. It would be ideal for Miami if Ramos and Cishek become that tandem.
— Joe Frisaro